Peace and Justice Initiative Brings Message of Hope to Haiti

Monday, April 14, 2014

Even before a massive earthquake devastated the Republic of Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, domestic violence had taken its toll on Haitian women and girls. The violence can take several forms, including rape, forcible confinement, death threats, insults and humiliation. According to Human Rights Watch, an international organization that contributes to research and advocacy on human rights, the earthquake has only “exacerbated the vulnerabilities” of Haitian women and girls who have little access to post-rape care and are financially dependent on men.

In an effort to provide training in mediation and nonviolent conflict resolution, Rachel Allen, coordinator of Valencia’s Peace and Justice Initiative, Eli Solis, professor of peace studies and Arabel Severe, a Valencia student from Port Au Prince, traveled to Haiti in March with a delegation from St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.

Working with churches in Jacmel, a town in southern Haiti that was especially hard hit by the earthquake, Allen and her team led educational workshops for an audience of parents, teachers and church youth leaders. The group also met with the principal and teachers of St. Peter’s School in Coq Chante. Officials from the school shared the urgent need for conflict resolution training for teachers.

It’s these kinds of grassroots efforts—both locally and abroad—that Allen and her colleagues are eager to get involved in. They’re working on a proposal with St. Margaret Mary to return to Haiti to conduct further workshops. The church, based in Winter Park, has organized mission trips to St. Michael Parish for more than a decade, providing residents with a chapel, a clinic and educational programs.

Valencia’s Peace and Justice Initiative seeks to promote a more nonviolent world through a visiting speakers series, community service and outreach, and providing students with coursework and hands-on opportunities to give practical meaning to the theories of peace building. An honors-level, two-year degree program in Peace and Global Studies will be offered on the college’s East Campus in the fall of 2015.

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